We all want our dogs to live longer, happier lives. My dogs are aging now: Chip turns 12 on Oct 6th and CC will be 13 exactly five months following. Their needs and desires have definitely changed since they were pups, yet they still remain all puppy in attitude and as playful as ever. If I have my wish I want them to live “Furever”. (For all of these years they have brought such joy to peoples and dogs lives. For all of these years they loved to entertain our guests and any dog guests that happen to be training with us for overnight and extended training sessions.)
Lately, their vision is beginning to decline and they don’t move quite as fast as they once did. I will continue to do all that I am able in order to give them as many great days to enjoy for all of the joy I have witnessed them give selflessly over the years.
To begin, I’ll share with you five things you should stop doing so you can help your dogs live a longer more joyful life.
(1) Feeding your dog first, and especially feeding from the table
Two huge no-no’s are free feeding (unless medically necessary) and feeding your dog before you feed yourself, and/or feeding them your non-pet-approved people food. Having a lack of education in the core nutritional needs of your pets definitely will shorten their lives. Dogs wouldn’t raid cornfields if they were hungry, they would raid chicken coops. Therefore a good lean source of protein is a necessity. Dogs, like many other mammals, eat veggies and fibrous plants in order to supply themselves with the necessary nutrients to survive as they were intended. A balance of these ingredients, even if you are supplementing a great protein source, from your own kitchen is favorable to achieve balance.
Dogs don’t eat fast food or even marshmallows with the same effect that these foods have on you when you make a choice to indulge. These items, especially those that include any form of onion, will kill red blood cells, which oxygenate their little bodies. The chemistry change within their bodies from these foods creates favorable conditions for cancers and tumors to grow. Dogs have a different metabolism than we do so our calories don’t equal theirs.
My dog CC could be STARVING and she will sit and wait until she sees me actually eat. I cannot fake eat with her to convince her I’ve eaten first, she won’t believe me. She is blessing because she keeps me eating healthy as well. Dogs instinctively must see their parents eat first to instill as safe of a feeling as possible when they eat and faith in your ability to protect them during their feeding time.
I’m a fan of feeding my dogs with the bowl placed a few feet away from the wall instead of against the wall so they will feel less venerable when they eat and enjoy their meal.
I also prefer the kind of bowl that has a rubber base so it does not slide around. Eating is a time of vulnerability and as great leaders, offers them such a safe environment and they will trust your leadership.
(2) Never giving your dog any boundaries (example: Allowing their dog off the leash when not in a secure area, especially if either of you have mastered recall training)
My dog, Chip Shot, is an amazing dog. When I call him to run back to me (recall), unless he sees a child he wants to play with he generally does come on first call. One day when he was younger, we were just outside of my front door and a small child inspired him to run across the street in front of a car. My heart sank as I saw his tail just pass the front tire as he scaled the curb on the other side.
I trained myself for this very situation. I knew to fall directly to my knees just to keep myself from saying a word. My natural human instinct was to yell his name and I knew that if I did that I would have to live with witnessing a tragedy for the rest of my life. Many of my customers have done with their past dogs and I am now there to train them to do this right with their new dogs. Thank goodness I know how to remain calm in a danger zone or Chip wouldn’t be celebrating his birthday soon. He was on the leash a little longer until he mastered the art of asking me first before darting off anywhere.
Your dog should (almost always) return to you on the first call of their name. If they are not, begin slowly with their favorite motivating tool calling them in a calm voice with a positive tone and begin this practice at home first. Once mastered move outside and then to the park when you know no one else is around. Mastering the recall will and can save your dog’s life and the ability to communicate and get results with your dog will definitely lengthen yours too.
Let’s be realistic, there are not a lot of choices for secure areas to allow your dog off the leash other than fenced in yards and fenced in dog parks. Some areas have tree-lined areas or hills that definitely assist in security are okay if you have mastered recall. I say be ever mindful of the nooks and alcoves that are around open parks that you like to frequent and be ever so mindful of ones that back up to areas with other wildlife. Frequently I train dogs to hike safely and always carry a can of mace or pepper spray in my bag for both of our safely. This dog is my responsibility and I am the dog’s protector so I am ever mindful of danger zones.
(3) Allowing your dog to lead your day
As I was meeting with a training client for the first time one afternoon, right in the middle of our session at approx. 4:30 pm the clients dog began to bark at her during our discussion at her table. It began with a small chirp and led to a loud yippee as to be saying “Hey Mom it’s me down here”. She looked at me and said ”Oh she’s telling me that it is dinner time”. Sounds like a novel idea, and entertaining to boot. However this dog barked at her mom about everything including anyone walking by the house and a doorbell from the TV show they watched together. This lady had hired me to stop the barking completely, and this little dog had been barking at everything for a while. I checked the dogs belly for a zipper and found that it was not a person in a fur coat; it was a dog so I gave the dog a purpose that didn’t include barking. And I retrained the mom’s habits so the barking completely stopped except for where we deemed appropriate.
This mom also allowed this little dog to walk in front of her and wander around aimlessly during walks. She was allowed to indiscriminately stop and sniff in areas that seemed fun for the dog, however she was allowing her dog to wander into more life altering danger zones. I mean who knows what happens to some of these areas at night, especially if there is wildlife that although amazing to watch bring disease like rabies and giardia into areas where we allow our domesticated animals to roam free. My dogs will not live long lives if I were to allow them to sniff and possibly eat something deadly without warning.
(4) Overfeed your dog
As a young girl, I asked my veterinarian what would be the best show weight for my beautiful Irish Setter and retired show dog Ewoyen (Ee-O-win). He said that if you cannot feel your dogs rib cage with maybe a little bit extra during wintertime then your dog will be considered overweight by the judges when you show her. From that advice I have kept my dogs on feeding pattern of when we exercise regularly we eat a bit more, and when we don’t we eat less. Not very scientific, however it has worked for every dog that I have until now.
My senior dog has become allergic to many things so I have to remain extremely careful with her diet. Recently she became allergic to sweet potato, which happens to be in almost everything. Although recently, I have had success in finding a few great food and treat companies that supply me with goodies and vittles that her body can handle. I’m reminded that dogs have only 1500 taste buds and we humans have over 9000. She can’t taste much these days anyway so I am always in search of great smelling food and treats so she can enjoy with her nose.
If your dog is super motivated by food and you find that you are on the constant food bribe with your dog to behave and it is costing extra calories and weight gain there are tips to help you “treat” them less while still getting their attention and proper acknowledgment of your commands. I do spoil my dogs with extra treats one day a week. They deserve it they work hard.
(5) Bring negativity inside their home
Have you had one of those days again? Feeling a little down in the mouth? Looking forward to a big furry kiss when you return home? People who go home stressed and don’t do a self check at their door before they enter their house generally Allow their stress to affect how they communicate with their pets. Include in that their people as well. This will shorten your dog’s lives and possibly yours along with your relationships both with family and friends. Check your vibe at the door and enter your sacred space filled with joy.
One thing that I will not allow in my training is a negative tone used with a dog. Unless you are correcting “caught in the act” poor behavior with a stern “growl” like their momma would have done and that is a different subject altogether.
You sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to a dog. Dogs hear muffled sounds coming out of your mouth and your tone is what tells them if you are okay. If you use a stern or angry tone they feel that you are weak and that danger may lurk around the corner. Eventually your dog can and will see you as even more weak if your tone is not happy and joyful or if you never play or go on walks. Mostly that leads to unwanted behaviors from the dog due to mixed messages given by you, or your stern tone. So check your vibe before you enter your home, or what I consider your sacred space. Leave the bad vibes outside and bring into your home only the good stuff. If will lengthen your dogs life by lowering his stress levels. It will lengthen all lives that surround you and more positive physical experiences for bliss.
About the Author: Geralynn Cada is a trainer of many, master of no one (wink), 30 year CPDT, 5+ years private practice, 8 year ABC Mentor Trainer, 10 year AKC CGC Evaluator, and has her BA in Biochemistry and BFA in Design.